Hot off the press

700,000 Italians received polluted water, a study concludes   ::   UK marks Earth Hour shortly before the release of global climate report   ::   Most Romanians believe they have no responsibility to act on climate change, survey finds   ::   Welcome to the Climate News Mosaic’s new blog!

Our weekly blog posts offer a glimpse into the latest climate change environmental issues to make it to the media in our countries – and sometimes, those that escape journalists’ attention but emerge in blogs and social media.

We are excited to embark on this journey and hope you join us – please share with us your thoughts in the comments (or via email or Twitter), tell others about this unique project, and consider supporting it.

In our first blog post our contributors recap last week’s environmental news in the UK, in Italy, and in Romania.


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UNITED KINGDOM

The Earth Hour initiative, at its eighth year, aims to highlight the urgency of the climate crisis by shutting the lights of major public buildings and the houses of those who take part, as left-wing daily The Guardian reports.

Image by wwfunitedkingdom (CC BY NC SA 2.0) via Flickr bit.ly/1hOSY6Xbit.ly/1hOSY6X

Image by wwfunitedkingdom (CC BY NC SA 2.0) via Flickr 

The initiative is a well established tradition in the UK, where several MPs and institutions showed their support.

For one hour, at 8.30pm local time on Saturday, London took a break from its nightlife as a reminder of what an energy crash struck world would look like.

In the face of a looming energy crisis, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey told the BBC that the government has a strategy that will “keep the lights on” despite concern over a diminishing buffer of electricity capacity.

On Monday, British media reported on the release of the report from the IPCC’s Working Group II dedicated to assessing the impacts and options for adaptation. Center-right news site The Telegraph interviewed Jim Hall, a Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, who spoke in support of the IPCC’s climate change report. He said that the UK will see increasing temperatures and more extreme events.

As the UK is hit every year by severe floods, this is a warning sign that may raise concerns in the most vulnerable areas of the country, such as Somerset, as some in the UK media recognized. The Guardian took stock of the reconstruction works after the recent extreme events, while on the New Statesman’s blog, The Staggers, Guy Shrubsole unpaced the new governmental flood insurance system. He points out that the system fails to address climate change related risks, assuming that “flood risk remains the same over time”.

Science commentary website The Conversation UK featured an analysis column on the role of individual citizens in the climate crisis.While more evidence supports the urgency of a dramatic reduction of greenhouse gases emissions on a global level, writes Tina Fawcett, senior researcher at the University of Oxford, “personal carbon trading” may be the way to go.

Carbon trading is a  system where companies can buy permissions for emitting pollutants, or sell credits to others, gained from reducing their own emissions. The system is designed as an incentive to cut pollution from industrial activities, but Fawcett pushes the boundaries and suggests that yearly carbon allowances should be allocated to every adult, to regulate carbon dioxide produced by private households and transportation. This would contribute to meeting the national target of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

Lou Del Bello

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ITALY

Center-left daily La Repubblica focuses its attention on the case of water pollution in Pescara, Abruzzo (central Italy), in the afterwards of the publication of a report by the National Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) on samples taken in 2007. The report was filed as a record for the prosecution in the ongoing trail against Montedison, Italian large industrial group and owner of the chemical plant in Bussi whose waste is considered the cause of water pollution. “Polluted water has been distributed to approximately 700,000 users”, the report states. Environmentalists in Pescara are protesting over misinformation, and new cancer cases have been reported.

Environmental blog Greenews reports on concerns over nuclear and radioactive waste in Italy. As an EU state member, Italy is required to adopt the Euratom Directive (2011/70) that mandates the establishment of a safe nuclear and radioactive waste storage.

Image by suzukimaruti (CC BY NC SA 2.0) via Flickr bit.ly/1lg4jBo

Image by suzukimaruti (CC BY NC SA 2.0) via Flickr

Therefore, Fondazione per lo Sviluppo Sostenibile (Sustainable Development Foundation) and nuclear decommissioning firm Sogin promoted the Osservatorio per la Chiusura del Ciclo Nucleare, an independent watchdog organizations aiming at informing about economic, social and environmental impact of activities related to nuclear decommissioning. “According to the UN, nuclear decommissioning is considered a green economy activity. For Italy this would mean an investment of 2,5 billion euro”, Stefano Leoni, president of the observatory, told Greenews.

Daily newspaper La Stampa reports on air pollution, highlighting four Italian cities, namely Frosinone, Turin, Alessandria and Benevento, where air pollution surpassed the limit of Pm10 for more than 35 days, the maximum allowed period, since the beginning of 2014. Data on air pollution have been recorded by Legambiente, Italian environmentalist association, and Gruppo Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, Italian railways.

Elena Roda

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ROMANIA

An article published in Hotnews.ro, an online news outlet, cites the results of the latest Eurobarometer special report on climate change issues from the EU citizen point of view. The study reiterates the problems approached in 2011 and also captures any changes in attitude among those questioned.

The statistics portray Romanians as only slightly concerned with climate change, compared to people in other member countries – about 67% of respondents declared they haven’t taken any measure against climate change in the last six months, more than the EU average and more than their counterparts in Bulgaria and Hungary, the neighboring countries.

And they don’t seem likely to change their minds, a close look at the report shows – 61% have said they are least likely to take action against climate change, as an overwhelming majority (90%) doesn’t consider themselves personally responsible to do so. Though 38% of Romanians nominate climate change among the most serious problems facing the world, they transfer mitigation responsibility to environmental NGOs (36% declaring so) and increasingly to the government.

National newspaper Adevarul published an interview with EU commissioner for climate change, Connie Hedegaard, touching issues like energy and the economic crisis in a context in which climate change mitigation and adaptation are vital.

Image by Olivier Hansen (CC BY NC SA 2.0) via Flickr bit.ly/1mETQlT

Image by Olivier Hansen (CC BY NC SA 2.0) via Flickr 

The commissioner stresses the importance of combined action on all fronts: “If Europeans are smart, they will know their priorities and that climate change mitigation is not something to be postponed until everything else will be solved”, Ms. Hedegaard said. In other words, focusing on economic issues should not exclude combating climate change, as more and more EU citizens are affected by extreme weather events, citing the recent flooding in Germany or extensive fires in Spain.

The interview delves further into the problem of energy dependency, with the commissioner saying that 1 billion euros are spent abroad every day just for getting oil to meet EU needs.

To counteract that reliance on external partners, EU state members need to become more energy efficient; the case of Romania is most representative, as its citizens pay on average eight times more for energy bills than their peers in more developed EU countries, mainly because of highly inefficient housing.

Ms. Hedegaard discusses how the new EU budget for 2014-2020 is designed to increasingly address climate change – 20% of it has to be spent with the environment in mind, while regional, structural funding will allow countries and businesses to adapt to climate change.

The Federation of Forest and Grassland Owners, along with WWF Romania, have organized a protest against illegal deforestation and lack of EU funding for forestry, according to Romania’s main news agency, Mediafax.

Four hundred people gathered to protest in Bucharest on the last weekend of March, boycotting the Ministry of Agriculture for taking no action for reducing greenhouse gases from deforestation; according to representatives of both organizations, of the eight billion euros allocated by the EU for the Rural Development National Programme, only 2.5% of it are assigned to forestry, without any money to compensate forest owners for preserving their forests. In the wake of the protest, an online petition was started to save Romania’s forests, which have lost over 350.000 ha to illegal deforestation in the last two decades.

Alexandra Popescu

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